I have learned over the years the only way to really get a child to listen is to make them LOOK me in the eyes.
It can't be the look at me and then immediately look away. It must be the look at me and don't take your eyes off until I am done. You must keep your eyes on them and don't continue until they have their eyes on you.
Until you can grab their attention to look directly at you, they will OFTEN not obey. (If I don't see you then I don't have to listen.) And little ones are famous for thinking if they don't look at you then you aren't there. Have you ever played Hide N Seek with a little one and they hide in a corner while you are looking at them and then hide their face. All the while you are staring at their little tail end sticking out while they are sure they have hidden well! They can't see you, therefore you can't see them.
We have been amazed over the years that more often than not if we get them to look directly at our eyes they WILL obey.
For this to work, you MUST maintain eye contact through the entire correction! If they look away, I will grab their attention again and start over. Often taking my finger putting it in front of their eyes, then pulling their eyes back to me. Stay patient, you will eventually get them. Eight children later and this method still works.
What will eye to eye contact give you?
- When we are eye to eye, they know exactly who I am talking to.
- When we are eye to eye, I can see that they understand every word.
- When we are eye to eye, they know I mean it this time.
- When we are eye to eye, I don't lose my temper. Something about that moment calms my heart and I realize the task God has given me to train this child. Something about that moment calms their heart to hear what is being asked.
- When we are eye to eye, I have appealled to their heart and change comes. This will look different as children age. Toddlers need to be trained and taught about behavior while we begin reaching for the heart. As the child ages, then we appeal to their heart. Pointing them back to God and allowing God to change a heart, not just a behavior.
I can't help but think this is like my relationship with the Lord. Until He really grabs my attention His desire for my obedience is lost in my own desires. But when I really look at HIM, I cannot deny what I am supposed to do.
Next time you have something to correct in your children, GET eye to eye.
You will be amazed how much calmer you will be at giving direction. It's hard to yell at those big eyes looking directly at you. You will me amazed at how clear you can see what the issue at hand is really about. And your child will know you mean business this time. They may still choose to disobey, but you can give right discipline because you know they know what was expected. They know once the discipline has been carried out, that MOM actually meant what she said. The next time you call them eye to eye...you will probably see a compliant heart.
I highly recommend "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp. This book shares how the heart determines the behavior. We, as parents, aren't here to just give our children options at what they will or will not obey. We are here to train, guide, and correct. We ARE to be in charge.
Are you in charge?